Will the West Cement Moldova in Its Sphere of Influence?

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Numerous visits of high-ranking US and EU officials are signaling that Moldova is viewed as a state which is in the area of the West's strategic interests
So, Moldova has become a true frontline state having faced within the past week perhaps the most serious challenges and problems for all three decades of its independence. Tens of thousands of refugees, the worsening criminal situation, the rupture of trade and economic ties with a neighboring state are just a small list of implications from the fighting in Ukraine. An already week-long invasion, despite the active resistance of the Ukrainian army, is developing more or less successfully for the Russian Federation as Russian troops are getting closer every day to block key cities in the south-east of Ukraine and completely encircle Kyiv. Apparently, Moscow is seeking maximum positions for itself to stymie the Ukrainian leadership and force it to accept a "peace agreement" on Russia's terms. Today, the second round of negotiations between the official delegations of Ukraine and Russia is expected to take place to discuss, among other things, a possible ceasefire. Based on the publicly stated positions, there are still no high expectations as to any agreements. A closer look at the composition of the Russian delegation and the statements by high-ranking officials in Moscow gives an impression that the Kremlin is aiming at a humiliating capitulation of Kiev's legitimate authorities, so as to avoid a military coup and the appointment of a puppet government. One way or another, but the military campaign seems to be nearing its end to be followed by a post-war phase along with attempts to fix the new reality in Ukraine, both politically and diplomatically. It is possible that subsequently a multinational military contingent of the so-called peacekeeping forces will also be introduced into Ukrainian territory. This morning, Putin submitted to the State Duma a protocol on amending the agreement on the CSTO peacekeeping activities, which introduces the concept of "coordinating state" under the auspices of which peacekeeping forces would be set up to participate in UN operations. Trapped in such unfavorable conditions and eager to find at least some motivating foreign policy breakthroughs, the Ukrainian leadership ventured a diplomatic step towards European integration the other day by submitting an official application for the EU candidate country status via a special procedure. A similar move is expected from the Georgian authorities. It's about one of two: either the Associated Trio participants were given some hints about the EU's readiness to decide on a more distinct European perspective for Kyiv, Chisinau and Tbilisi in the current circumstances, or in doing so the three countries are trying to pressure Brussels and push it to display greater political resolve. Meanwhile, it can be assumed that Washington and Brussels seem to realize that precisely our country is currently in the zone of greatest risk and needs not only aid and protection but also certain political gestures from the West. Presumably, yesterday's visit by OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmidt, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrel and Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Oliver Varhelyi, as well as the upcoming trips to Chisinau by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are a clear signal that Moldova is viewed as a state which is in the area of the West's strategic interests. Speaking at a joint press conference with EU representatives yesterday, Maia Sandu stressed that Moldova is stretched to the limit in terms of accepting refugees and needs help from international partners. Also, the President once again condemned Russia's actions in Ukraine, emphasizing the neutral status of our country which has no intentions to get involved in the conflict. According to the head of state, the security risks for Moldova are high, but there are no grounds to believe that the war will enter the territory of our country. In addition, Sandu again        that Chisinau hasn't joined sanctions against Russia, nor it has such plans. Despite the fact that the president announced her intention to apply for membership of the European Union, experts drew attention to the fact that most of the messages were, oddly enough, addressed specifically to the Kremlin. It seems that our authorities are trying to send messages to Moscow that Chisinau, with all its solidarity with the West, adheres to the most neutral position and would not like military actions on the territory of Ukraine to affect the territorial integrity of the country. The fears of our leadership are not unfounded. Yesterday, the Belarusian Ambassador in Chisinau was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to give explanations. As you know, the Belarusian leader recently held a working meeting and, apparently deliberately, leaked cartographic data about Russian troops' actions on the territory of Ukraine. The layout shows that one of the routes is movement toward the Transdniestrian region. This, certainly, prompts a reasonable question whether this is actually in Moscow's plans and what the purpose of such a route is - to reach the eastern borders of our country or penetrate into our constitutional territory, for example, in the area of the Cobasna village to tighten security of depots until the end of hostilities. So far, judging by the information reports, the Russian military continues to move across the Mykolaiv region. However, the footage that appeared yesterday about military vessels, as well as about the explosions in Odessa and the Odessa region, suggests that Moscow still has plans to take control of the entire Black Sea coast of Ukraine. The unfolding events are a powerful strategic challenge for our country that requires careful and balanced decisions. However, the approaching Russian military from the east and the counter movement from Washington and Brussels can easily turn Moldova into another point of confrontation with extremely gloomy consequences.